* So here I am trying to type and post these recipe ideas and The Boy is being very affectionate and needy. He’s wonderfully happy, and ridiculously talkative, as any young man would be after riding along with Papa in the John Deere for the last hour. He is emptying the contents of his piggy bank (ie coffee can with slit in lid) on my desk between me and my keyboard. He reminds me of my cat (RIP, Miss Book), climbing all over me ‘in the heat of the moment’ like nothing important is going on (no comment) and why can’t I interrupt? This is of no interest to me and I need Cat Chow!
It seems to take forever to get ready in the Spring, but once it makes it to a harvestable size, parsley explodes with life. It’s a biennial herb, taking two years to go through its life cycle of seed to plant to flower and back to seed again. A full-sized parsley plant looks like a deep green pompom – it can measure 2 feet in diameter, and you can cut it back well and often for months as long as you leave the heart of the plant. It even winters over and spring regrowth is always a welcome sight, both in the garden AND in the kitchen.
I don’t think you get the full effect of it when you snip a bit from your herb gardens, but here on the farm parsley is cut and bunched in the field; the cutting of it releases such a lively aroma it’s practically intoxicating. While I DO harvest it, I don’t have to help with the planting of it.
According to folklore, virgins couldn’t plant parsley without risking impregnation by Satan. Thomas is enough of a challenge (Mommy says with a loving heart) – imagine the spawn of Satan on top of that! Instead, Dad plants the rows with a tractor, each seed carefully spaced thanks to measured holes in belts that turn, catching the seeds as they drop out of the hopper (holding bin).
We’re used to seeing parsley as a garnish (Last time you went to the local greasy spoon, they probably put an orange slice and a sprig of curly parsley on your bacon-and-egg platter), but it can also play a primary role, being the star of the dish as in tabbouleh. One of the few things I snag from the fields (or buy at the supermarket in the winter) nearly every week is a bunch of parsley. I prefer flat-leaf Italian parsley. I think it has a fuller flavor and it mounds nicely for chopping. It’ll last for a week or more in a bag in the fridge, rubber bands or twisties removed, and wrapped in a paper towel.
Parsley, to me anyway, is indispensible. It adds a fresh, bright taste – acceptable even when being substituted for other herbs in traditional dishes. I was basil-less a few weeks back and was determined to make bruschetta. I rubbed the toasted bread with garlic, topped it with diced tomatoes and chopped parsley leaves that had been seasoned and drizzled with red wine vinegar and olive oil. A few shavings of Pecorino Romano cheese was all it needed on top and it was delicious!
MANY, many moons ago I went to a restaurant in San Francisco called The Stinking Rose. I’d heard about it and was so intrigued by a place that specialized in all things garlic that I just HAD to go…. Got lost trying to find it, especially difficult in the rain, but it was very good, and despite having to buy mucho toothpaste to alleviate the breath issues, we went back again for lunch 2 days later. What caught my attention the most was their Garlic Rose Relish. A small container of this was on every table to be spread on bread or used as a condiment to add to any dish.
Well… I made some last weekend and I have been using it everywhere I can. First, I stirred a spoonful into some cooked jasmine rice – GREAT way to add life to leftovers! I added some to my scrambled eggs for breakfast. I mixed a few spoonfuls with some ricotta cheese and dolloped it on top of a grilled zucchini (again, leftover) frittata as it was cooking stove-top, then popped it into the broiler to brown the top. It was beautiful AND richly flavored (despite using part skim ricotta), and worth making zucchini just for this!
I still have some left – I find it lasts well over a week in the fridge, its surface completely covered by olive oil – so last night I made a fish dish and served it with grilled (indoors, cast iron grill pan) carola potatoes and sauteed green beans with elephant garlic. It was quick and flavorful and tasty enough to please my personal food critic.
Parsley, and in turn this relish, is like a little black dress. Everyone needs to have one on hand for any occasion that may pop up. And no matter what you do with it, it always looks (tastes) great!
Crispy Baked Lemony Tilapia
(quantities are per serving – as always, adjust to your tastes)
1 fish fillet
about 1T Olive Oil
about 1T lemon juice
1T+/- Garlic Rose Relish
2T coarse bread crumbs
Mix oil, lemon, salt and pepper in individual baking dish (like a creme brulee dish or other gratin dish). Put fillet in and turn to coat/season. Spread relish evenly over fish, then sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bake uncovered in a 400° oven (425° in a toaster oven, which is perfect for single person cooking!) for about 10 minutes – time depends on thickness of fillet. Serve with something delicious (like potatoes, couscous, quinoa, tiny pasta, rice, etc) to sop up the lemony-oil.